How Do Biological Transport Companies Relocate Live Specimens

Completing research within a laboratory occasionally requires the shipment of sensitive equipment and materials to another facility. Transporting live specimens is a delicate task that requires careful control and planning. The ideal method of transport varies for different organisms and desired laboratory conditions, but a commitment to the preservation of the specimen is necessary across all conditions.
lab fridge
Cryogenic Preservation
One method of transporting a wide variety of live specimens is through a procedure known as cryogenic preservation. In this process, a specimen is slowly and carefully cooled to sub-zero temperatures. This deliberate freezing prevents damage to the living materials. At sub-zero temperatures, enzymatic activities within the specimen are halted, so damage and aging caused by an organism’s regular metabolic processes are essentially stopped. Before cooling begins, the specimen is sometimes coated with a substance known as a cryoprotectant, a material used to prevent damage caused by the formation of ice during the cooling process. The speed of cooling is equally important in preventing damage related to ice formation.
In this state of preservation, materials can be transported without the risk of damage or disturbance, but the specimens must be maintained at the sub-zero temperature for the duration of the transport process. If properly performed and handled, cryogenic preservation protects the viability and biological processes of the specimen.
With cryogenic preservation, utilizing an appropriate cold-chain transport is crucial to effective specimen transport. Cold-chain shipping provides a chain of transport and storage facilities that maintain a certain temperature range. A chain of consistent temperatures can prevent damage to delicate specimens, especially for lengthy transports. Inconsistent heating and cooling of samples can cause irreversible damage.
Different state and federal authorities have regulations for the transport of live specimens via cryogenic preservation. Laws regarding the materials that can be safely transported are particularly important, but these laws vary from state to state. It is absolutely crucial to have knowledge of these regulations prior to transporting live materials.
The minimum regulations always apply, but very specific concerns must be addressed if the live specimen being transported possibly contains infectious materials. Regulations regarding the transport of infectious materials are very strict, and certain precautions must be observed before transport to another facility can occur. Additionally, the guidelines for handling infectious samples are also more strict than the guidelines for handling non-infectious materials.
Live Laboratory Transport
Another method of transporting live specimens involves the transportation of live laboratory animals. While some typical laboratory animals, particularly rodents, are hardy creatures, safe and effective transport still requires a secure and controlled environment to prevent damage and contamination. An environmentally stable transport is necessary for all species, so it is important to maintain a constant temperature and minimal exposure to non-laboratory conditions.
lab rat
Like the laws covering cryogenic preservation transport methods, there are strict regulations governing the transport of laboratory animals. Any species defined as “exotic” is usually subject to additional transportation regulations and paperwork. Laws vary by state, so knowledge of regulations regarding the species being transported is important.
Live specimens are absolutely essential for conducting research, so protecting those specimens during transport is absolutely critical. With the proper equipment and careful planning, the risk of damage to live specimens during a move can be drastically reduced or eliminated.